Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 12, 2008
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Thomas Jirele, Vice-Chairman Robert Ciervo, Secretary-Treasurer Michael Gallagher, Jerry Schenkman and Philip Calabro, members. Also present were: Joseph S. Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Tom Jirele called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence. Rabbi Weinstein of the Lubavitcher Center gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski asked that Environmental Advisory Commission appointment be removed from the agenda.
Public Comment: Resident Tony Pasella asked whether Newtown Yardley Road is to have a median in the center and whether Newtown Yardley Road is to be widened to four lanes.
Mr. Jirele confirmed that the TIP list submitted to PennDOT has included improvements to Newtown Yardley Road from the Bypass to Terry Drive, with a median to be installed for traffic calming. This has been on the TIP for a number of years. He did not know when the work would begin. There are also improvements planned for the intersection of Newtown Yardley Road at Terry Drive. There had not been plans for widening of the road.
Mr. Calabro said that there had been some discussion of widening the Bypass from Penns Trail to the I95 entrance.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh, as a member of the Planning Commission, confirmed that there had been some discussion of possible widening of Newtown Yardley Road for turning lanes at the intersection with the Bypass. Discussion of a boulevard effect on Newtown Yardley Road included installation of a median and curbs and sidewalks. This discussion did not include widening of the entire road to four lanes.
Resident Leo Fitzpatrick read into the record a letter from the Superintendent of Council Rock School District dated March 10, 2008, advising parents of a change in enrollment for Newtown Middle School due to overcrowding. Newly enrolled 7 th and 8 th grade students will attend Richboro Middle School. Because of this letter, Mr. Fitzpatrick expressed concern about plans for development of the Melsky tract, which will further burden the School District.
Resident Pam Fitzpatrick asked that the Supervisors return the Newtown portion of the Melsky tract to Conservation Management zoning because of the burden on the schools.Mike Petrucci of the Newtown Business and Professional Association announced the NBPA sponsored Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, March 15 at 9:00 AM at Pickering Manor’s lawn. All are welcome. He urged that those interested in participation arrive promptly, as the event takes only about 15 minutes.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher asked that the minutes of February 11, 2008 include reference to the formation of a committee, made up of two representatives from each of the Planning Commission, Park and Recreation Board and Environmental Advisory Council, for updating of the Open Space Comprehensive Plan, and that there have been discussions with Mr. Marshall of the Heritage Conservancy about the update, but that no decision has been made at this time to work with the Heritage Conservancy.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he would be speaking to Mr. Marshall shortly about his proposal. He is still awaiting some guidelines from the County.
Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of the work session of February 11, 2008 as corrected. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Schenkman abstaining.
Mr. Gallagher noted that in the minutes of February 20, 2008, page 3, paragraph 5 should read, “…March 26, 2008.”
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of February 20, 2008, as corrected. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The Board discussed whether the minutes of the special joint meeting with Newtown Borough and Newtown Corporation should be formally approved at a regular Board of Supervisors meeting or at the next joint meeting.
Mr. Jirele noted that the Newtown Borough Council had voted to approve the minutes, and that this had been an advertised Board of Supervisors meeting.
Mr. Garton suggested that, since a vote of the Supervisors could have been taken at the meeting, and that it had been advertised, the minutes should be voted at this evening’s meeting.Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the Joint Newtown Borough, Newtown Township, Newtown Corporation meeting of January 29, 2008. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Dr. Ciervo abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $429,710.92. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $200,135.65. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports and Comments of Officials
Chairman: Discussion of Upper Silver Lake Road: Mr. Garton explained that Upper Silver Lake Road has been temporarily closed to all but emergency traffic for a number of years. This action was not a vacation of the road, but a temporary measure. At this time the Board is considering its options for the continued closing or possible reopening of the road. The Board has three options:
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Garton said that the road would have to be vacated if it were to remain for emergency access only. This has not been legally done; the current closing is a temporary closing.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the developer of the Villas of Newtown has agreed to contribute to repair the road if it is to be re-opened. No extensive engineering has been done for re-opening, only a cursory study by Pennoni Associates. Mr. Schenkman said that he would be hesitant to make a decision either to close or re-open the road without engineering information.
Mr. Gallagher agreed that an engineering study would be necessary to make an informed decision.
Dr. Ciervo did not agree that a new engineering study would be necessary to make this decision. In 2001 the road had been closed as part of the final plan approval for Wiltshire Walk. Access was to have been for emergencies only. Residents had been promised that the road would remain closed and it is unfair to consider other options at this time.
Mr. Garton said that this might have been the intention of the sitting Board of Supervisors at that time but no formal vacation of the road had taken place. He said that this could have been challenged as a violation of the final plan by the developer.
Mr. Calabro read into the record a letter dated March 12, 2008, signed by Barry Hertzberg as president of the Kirkwood Homeowners Association, representing 210 homeowners. In the letter, the Homeowners Association urges the Supervisors to re-open and restore the road for the benefit of the community as a whole rather than close the road permanently for the benefit of only a few residents. The current condition is unsightly, and a navigation hazard. The letter points out the willingness of McGrath Homebuilders to make improvements, and suggests the Association will seek legal action to remediate the current situation.
Mr. Gallagher noted that he had received a similar letter from the Reserve Homeowners Association, also supporting the re-opening of the road.
In response to questions from Mr. Sensibaugh, Mr. Garton and Mr. Jirele said that re-opening of the road was not part of the stipulation agreement with McGrath.
Resident Ed Johnson, on behalf of Wiltshire Walk Homeowners Association which represents 149 homes, presented the Board with a letter urging that the road be re-opened.
Resident Lawrence Haymer of Old Frost Lane, said that at the time that the road was closed there had been no indication that it would be temporary. This was to have been a permanent closure. Mr. Haymer pointed out the sight distance problems with the location and the difficult turn in the road.
Resident Susan Iazzetti of Upper Silver Lake Road said that the closing was to have been permanent. The residents in her small neighborhood have been greatly inconvenienced by the construction of 550 homes, and have never complained or attempted to fight the developments, because the road was closed to protect the neighborhood from construction and from increased traffic. She urged the Board to keep the road closed.
Resident Linda Scott of Upper Silver Lake Road said that the homes in her small neighborhood were built long before all of the recent development. She has been greatly inconvenienced by all of the construction. If the road is re-opened, it is too narrow for two trucks or school busses to pass each other. There are no sidewalks, making the road dangerous if open to through traffic. Traffic calming would be needed. She urged the Board to leave the road closed permanently.
Resident Nelson Biocchi of Upper Silver Lake Road discussed the dangerous condition of the road. He complained that in its current condition the end of the road had become a hang-out for teens, and he frequently must clean up all kinds of litter. He said the area is dark and secluded right now. If opened the road would be unsafe for the residents in the immediate area, where there are no sidewalks and the road turns sharply. It had been the site of numerous accidents.
Resident Joan Biocchi of Upper Silver Lake Road discussed the accidents that had occurred on this road in the past. She said that the residents of the other developments who are asking for the road to be re-opened are not greatly inconvenienced by its current closing, as it takes only 90 seconds to detour around the area. She asked that the Board leave the road closed as had been promised.
Mrs. Iazzetti said that she resented the residents who brought up numbers, pointing out that the residents of the 14 homes in the Upper Silver Lake area never complained during all of the construction for these new homes. The Upper Silver Lake residents are only asking that the Board give them what had been promised.
Mr. Jirele said that he is the only current Board member who had been on the Board in 2001, when the road was closed. Closing the road was promised to these residents and he urged the Board to uphold this promise. He asked for a motion to begin the vacation process.
Dr. Ciervo moved to begin the process to vacate Upper Silver Lake Road. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that this had been on the agenda as a discussion. He did not want to take action without notice on the agenda. He also would like to get engineering data to make an informed decision.
Mr. Gallagher said that while he agrees with Mr. Jirele, he would also want to review engineering data to make an informed decision.
Mr. Calabro expressed concern about the legality of a decision made without proper information.
Mr. Jirele said that the decision had been made correctly to close the road, it just had not been carried out properly with a legal vacating of the road. That decision had been made because the road’s condition was dangerous. A traffic study had been done in 1999, prior to the closing of the road.
Mr. Schenkman said that the 1999 traffic study is obsolete. Traffic conditions have worsened since then and this Board should be looking for remedies.
Dr. Ciervo noted that at the time that the decision had been made to close the road residents of Kirkwood made no objections. He strongly objected to spending any additional money on engineering or traffic studies before legalizing the road closure.
The Board briefly discussed the impact that the Villas will have on traffic, and whether those future homeowners should be considered in making the decision, but Mr. Jirele pointed out that these future residents would be looking at and purchasing their homes with the road in its current, closed, condition.
Mr. Garton said that the motion on the floor is to begin the process to vacate Upper Silver Lake Road. This would involve securing necessary utility and emergency access easements, drafting an ordinance, advertising and holding a public meeting. The process might take about 90 days.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether new traffic data could be gathered in time to meet the October deadline for McGrath Homebuilders.
Amy Kaminsky of Carroll Engineering, the Township’s Traffic Engineer, said that she has reviewed data provided by Matt Johnson of Pennoni Associates. This did not include recent traffic counts. To collect data from peak hour and Saturday midday counts from Penns Trail and Newtown Yardley Road could take only a few weeks. She explained that the analysis would consider whether a traffic signal would be warranted and what other traffic calming might be needed. There is a possibility that sidewalks might be recommended. She explained that new data would be compared to data from before development to compare traffic patterns. McGrath would have performed a traffic impact study, and those projected numbers could also be used.
Mr. Jirele suggested that he thought that if the road were re-opened it would most frequently be used by commuters returning from the Bypass in the late afternoons.
When pressed by the Supervisors, Ms. Kaminsky said that her opinion, though not based on engineering data, is that the Supervisors have a responsibility to uphold promises made to the residents.
Mr. Pasella asked whether the road was to have remained closed if Brandywine had built an office park at the Villas location.
Mr. Gallagher expressed some concern that the residents of Kirkwood might pursue this matter through the courts. He said that a decision to close the road would be defensible if current traffic data were gathered. He said that if a study had been done in 2001, he would like to review that information.
Messrs. Schenkman, Gallagher and Calabro all expressed interest in reviewing traffic studies from 2001 before making a decision.
Mr. Calabro moved to table a decision on Upper Silver Lake Road until the Board has reviewed existing traffic data. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Garton said that a motion to table can be made and takes precedence over the motion already on the floor.
The motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Jirele and Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Mr. Czajkowski agreed to provide copies of prior traffic study data to the Board in advance of the next meeting.
Joint Zoning Council: Mr. Jirele reported that the Joint Zoning Council met to discuss potential rezoning of some land in Newtown. This will be added to an upcoming agenda.
Pension Committee Report: Mr. Gallagher reported that the Pension Committee met on March 6, 2008. Michael Leone of Merrill Lynch was in attendance along with one of the account managers from Dreyfus. The pensions are currently invested 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds. Mr. Leone discussed changing that investment policy to allow more flexibility. He also introduced the members to a program for other types of investments such as commodities. This will be researched further and discussed at a meeting some time during the summer.
Conditional Use – Metro at Goodnoe’s Corner – 258 N. Sycamore Street: Mr. Jirele opened the conditional use hearings.
Chad Perry was in attendance to review this application for conditional use for an E-1 retail store use in an E-15 community shopping center at Goodnoe’s Corner, building 3A.
Mr. Garton said that the application had been advertised in the Newtown Advance on February 21 and 28, 2008. The application is incorporated into the record.
Mr. Garton reviewed the conditions to be included in a motion, including the request to alter the hours of operation to 10:00AM to 10:00 PM seven days per week. The number of employees would be five, including two part time employees, with an average of two and maximum of three on the premises at any one time.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Perry said that his business is currently located in New Hope; he will be closing the Hew Hope store to move to Newtown. He will agree to any requirements for signage that HARB might require and he accepts the conditions as outlined by Mr. Garton.
Mr. Gallagher moved to grant conditional use approval to Metro at Goodnoe’s Corner for use E-1 retail store, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Jirele closed the Metro at Goodnoe’s Corner hearing.
Conditional Use – Cricket Communications: Mr. Jirele opened the conditional use hearing for Cricket Communications.
Richard Lemonovich represented the applicant for conditional use approval for communications antennae, use I-1 and equipment cabinet building, use I-2 on an existing communications tower at Penns Trail and Friends Lane in the LI Light Industrial zoning district.
Mr. Garton said that the application had been advertised in the Newtown Advance on February 21 and 28, 2008. The application is part of the record. Mr. Garton reviewed the conditions of approval; Mr. Lemonovich agreed to those conditions.
Mr. Schenkman moved to grant conditional use approval for Cricket Communications to install communications antennae and communications equipment building, uses I-1 and I-2 at an existing communications tower, use I-3 at Penns Trail and Friends Lane subject to the following conditions:
Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Lemonovich said that the applicant will not place any signage at the location. The applicant is not adding to the height of the existing tower.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Jirele closed the conditional use hearing.
Cricklewood Green Office Park – Caufield Place and Lindenhurst Road – Revised Final Plan for Land Development: Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicants for modification to an already approved plan which reconfigures the layout of three of the five approved office buildings, reduces overall floor area by 5,524 square feet and reconfigures parking and eliminates 28 spaces. Front yard parking has been eliminated and the Zoning Hearing Board has granted a variance for front yard setbacks.
At its February 19, 2008 meeting the Planning Commission reviewed and recommended approval of the revised final plan for land development for Cricklewood Green .
Mr. Marshall said that the applicants agree to all of the conditions recommended by the Planning Commission.
J. Halleck Hoeland, developer of the project, commented on the condition regarding signage. He noted that the development has already erected signs at its entrance.
Mr. Garton said that the condition only applies to new signage, if any is planned.
Mr. Schenkman moved to grant final plan approval for Cricklewood Green,Bucks County Tax Map Parcel No. 29-10-78, prepared by J.G. Park Associates, Inc., comprising: Sheets 1 of 10 through 10 of 10 dated 10/7/07 and last revised 1/8/08; Sheets A-1 and A-2 dated 10/5/07 and last revised 1/7/08; and, Sheet A-1A dated 1/7/08 (the “Revised Final Plan”), and recommends approval subject to the following conditions:
Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Marshall said that emergency access has already been installed and that the lighting has already been approved and installed. The applicant has worked with and will continue a good relationship with the residents of Autumn Drive.
The motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Officials
Manager: Mr. Czajkowski presented the plan expiration report.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Garton said that Rosebank Winery still has some outstanding issues to be resolved for which an extension might be sought.
Mr. Jirele suggested that the extensions could not go on indefinitely, and asked that Mr. Garton write to the attorney for Rosebank indicating that an extension would only be granted for 60 days, after which a status report would be sought.
Mr. Czajkowski reviewed the Planning Commission synopses for the meetings of February 19 and March 3, 2008. At the February 19 meeting, the Commission reviewed and recommended approval of Cricklewood Green and reviewed three Zoning Hearing Board applications, forwarding comments.
The March 4, 2008, Planning Commission meeting lacked a quorum due to illness of members. Those in attendance reviewed the conditional use applications of Metro at Goodnoe’s Corner and Cricket Communications, and were in agreement that approval should be granted. Discussion of appointment to the committee to re-draft the Township Open Space Comprehensive Plan was postponed to the March 18, 2008 meeting.
Bucks County Consortium Bids for Stone/Asphalt and Signs: The Board reviewed the recommendation memo of Public Works Director Gary Crossland.
Mr. Gallagher noted that these are the low bidders and are firms the Township has done business with in the past.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the bids of Hanson Aggregate and Eureka Stone Quarry for stone and asphalt. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Czajkowski asked the Board to review Mr. Crossland’s memo regarding the fifth year of upgrading the Township’s signs as required by MUTCD.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the bid of Garden State Highway Products for sign replacements for a total of $24,000. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Sensibaugh’s question, Mr. Czajkowski said that this item had been in the 2008 budget.
The motion passed unanimously.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Czajkowski said that he has seen the problems at Twining Bridge Road due to recent storms, and the Public Works Department will be addressing them.
Joint Historic Commission Appointment: Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint Neil Poppel to the Joint historic Commission. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Technology Committee Appointments: Mr. Calabro moved to appoint Harry R. Stevens, James Bowe, Michael J. Horan, Robert Bowers, Richard Thompson and Edward Lipinski to the Technology Committee. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: The Board noted that the committee can have up to seven members, however only six residents submitted resumes. They thanked those residents who have volunteered. The first meeting will be on April 29 at 7:30 PM.
The motion passed unanimously.Mr. Jirele noted that there is still an opening on this committee and also an opening on the Environmental Advisory Council. He asked that interested residents contact the Administrative Assistant, Toni Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solicitor's Report: Mr. Garton reviewed the application to the Zoning Hearing Board of Lodestar Investments, LLC, requesting a special exception to construct a single-family dwelling on a non-conforming lot and seeking variances for a lot width of 83 feet where 100 feet is required, an aggregate side yard of 40 feet where 50 feet is required and an impervious surface ratio of 27% where only 13% is permitted. The property is located at 759 Newtown Yardley Road in the R-2 Zoning District.
Mr. Garton said that he had written a letter to Charles O. Marte, Jr., attorney for the applicant, requesting some information on the project. Mr. Marte and Engineer Heath Dumack were in attendance to answer questions, along with Kumar Mangula, a principle in Lodestar Investments and Eric Hessler and Art Loretti, the builders of the project. Mr. Marte said that the applicant has purchased the undersized lot next to the Newtown Swim Club driveway with the intention of demolishing the existing house and building a single family house to be sold by Lodestar.
In response to questions about stormwater management, Mr. Dumack said that a subsurface stormwater ballast system would be installed and French drains would be placed along the driveway to capture all run-off. The applicant has considered using permeable blacktop to mitigate some of the impact of impervious surface. Mr. Dumack is aware that permeable blacktop would require certain maintenance. The system will meet the code for the 100-year storm event. The plans have not yet been fully engineered.
Mr. Gallagher asked about the proposed use of the house.
Mr. Marte said that the applicant had considered using the house for employees or clients of Lodestar, which has offices on the other side of Newtown Yardley Road, however because of the property’s zoning, that plan had been abandoned. The property will be sold as a single family dwelling. Mr. Mangula has attempted to speak to Mr. Platt, owner of Newtown Swim Club about a shared driveway, but Mr. Platt is not willing to cooperate.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s questions, Mr. Loretti provided a drawing of the proposed house, which will have a 1680 square foot footprint. It will be a two story house with an attached 2-car garage, 4 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths and kitchen, living room, family room, dining room. The dormers are decorative and not a third floor. The total square footage of the house is 3350 square feet.
Mr. Marte noted that 2000 square feet of property along Newtown Yardley Road had been given to the Township. If that land were included in the calculations for impervious surface, the impervious surface would be reduced to 23.7%.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question about the feasibility of a residence on a commercial street, Mr. Mangula said that because of its location across the street from his business offices, some of his employees have already expressed interest in the house. He has considered purchasing the house for his own use. He is aware that with future improvements planned for Newtown Yardley Road, it is possible that his driveway might be limited to right in/right out.
Mr. Marte pointed out that this 18,174 square foot lot has been non-conforming for many years.
The Board took no action on this application.
Mr. Garton reported that he participated in oral arguments in the appeal of the sale of land by Council Rock School District. No decision has been made.
Engineer's Report: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize the final escrow release to Wiltshire Walk in the amount of $728,948.72. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Ms. Fountain said that the possible re-opening of Upper Silver Lake Road is not a concern in this release.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize issuance of a certificate of completion and escrow release in the amount of $56,743.05 to 11 Friends Lane, LLC. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize issuance of a certificate of completion and escrow release in the amount of $27,442.82 to Friends Lane Parking Lot Improvements. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Ms. Fountain presented change orders for the 2007 road program.
Mr. Garton said that there have been some difficulties with the Twining Bridge Road project. Change orders #3 and #4 address some of the difficulties. There has been a great deal of discussion. The problems have been outlined in a letter from Mr. Garton. The change orders reflect a compromise negotiated with A. H. Cornell to complete the project in a better fashion.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize change orders #3 and #4 of the 2007 road program as outlined in CKS memo dated March 3, 2008. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize pay estimate #4, including two change orders totaling $152,990.60, with 2% to be retained until the work on Twining Bridge Road is completed as outlined in the CKS memo dated March 5, 2008. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Old Business: Mr. Gallagher reported that Bucks County had incorrectly reported the amount of Newtown Township’s allotment in the Open Space initiative. The Township’s correct amount is $580,101.
Dr. Ciervo reminded the Board that he had asked the Solicitor to draft an ordinance that would rezone the Newtown Township portion of the Melsky tract to CM Conservation Management zoning. He would like to send that draft ordinance to the Jointure for approval. This ordinance would not affect Toll Brothers’ approved plan for the Melsky tract, but if any of the pending appeals are successful and new plans are required, this zoning should be in place.
Mr. Gallagher said that he was in favor of this measure as it would reduce housing density if any of the appeals are successful.
Mr. Garton said that map changes are not done quickly and that current appeals could take up to a year to be resolved.
Mr. Schenkman and Mr. Jirele expressed some concern about moving forward with a zoning change before the land has been transferred to the Veterans Administration for the cemetery. A delay of a few weeks or months until the land has been transferred should not make a difference.
Dr. Ciervo said that he was eager to “get the ball rolling.”
Mr. Gallagher said that sending a draft to the Jointure should not have any effect on the sale to the VA, and he agreed with Dr. Ciervo to get the change started.
Mr. Calabro said that he prefers to wait until the land has been transferred.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he would ascertain when the transfer takes place and inform the Board.
Mr. Jirele suggested tabling further discussion of this matter for a month or two.
New Business: Mr. Gallagher said that he would not be in attendance at the next work session on March 17, 2008.The meeting adjourned at 10:45 PM.